When you were growing up, did you ever wish that your parents were happy? Did you feel safe when they were happy and peaceful?
My mother was rarely a happy person. Most of the time she was anxious, angry and felt overburdened, even though I was her only child. She rarely laughed and was often upset with me, or my father. Clearly, she made both of us responsible for her happiness and we consistently fell short.
I would have given anything to have had a happy mother - a mother who knew how to take responsibility for her own happiness and pain. I would have loved to have had a mother who showed me how to take loving care of myself instead showing me how to be an unhappy martyr.
Often, in my counseling work with parents, I ask them if their parents were happy. Most of the time they say no. I ask them if they wanted their parents to be happy and invariably they say, "Yes, I would have loved it." Yet these same parents are not taking responsibility for making themselves happy now. They are acting just like their parents - anxious, angry, depressed, withdrawn, resistant, or compliant. They are controlling with each other or with their children in the same ways their parents were controlling.
"As parents," I say to them, "it is your responsibility to learn how to make yourselves happy so you can be role models for your children. How can your children learn how to take emotional responsibility if you don't? Right now, you are role modeling being a victim of your circumstances instead of being an emotionally responsible adult. You are using your anger, upsets and unhappiness to control your children, or you are putting yourself aside to take care of everyone but yourself. How can they learn to take care of themselves if you are not taking care of yourselves?"
Many parents take care of externals: they keep the house clean, they are on time, they pay their bills, and they earn money. Some parents even take care of their physical health by eating well and getting enough exercise. But many parents fail to take care of their emotional wellbeing.
Taking care of your emotional wellbeing means that you recognize that you cause your own feelings with your thoughts and actions. When you think and behave in ways that are unloving to yourself or others - that are not in your highest good - you will be unhappy. When you think and behave in ways that are loving to yourself and others - that are in your highest good - you will be happy. Your positive or negative emotions are completely the result of your own thoughts and actions.
If you operate from the belief that how your children act, or how your partner acts, or how your external life is, causes your feelings, then you are operating as a victim. As a victim, your happiness is dependent upon others doing what you want them to do and on getting the outcomes you want. If this is your belief system, then you are teaching your children to be victims.
Taking emotional responsibility means staying tuned into your own feelings and immediately shifting your thought process and actions when you are feeling negative feelings. It means that you learn to access a spiritual source of inner guidance to help you know how to take loving care of yourself. You need to learn to turn to your spiritual guidance to help you think the thoughts and take the actions that are true and in harmony with your soul, rather than operating from the false beliefs that cause you pain.
Do not kid yourself into thinking that as long as you are there for your children you are being good parents. You also need to learn to be there for yourself so that you can be a happy and peaceful parent.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. best-selling author of eight books, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or email her at mailto:email@example.com.
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